MEN'S VOLLEYBALL: Coach finds libero through winter clubs

Junior libero David Ryan Vander Meer bumps the ball in the third set against McKendree Jan. 24 at Worthen Arena. DN PHOTO BREANNA DAUGHERTY
Junior libero David Ryan Vander Meer bumps the ball in the third set against McKendree Jan. 24 at Worthen Arena. DN PHOTO BREANNA DAUGHERTY

Ball State men’s volleyball head coach Joel Walton ran his finger down the left side of a freshly printed roster, looking for players who didn’t have the luxury of playing for a high school team.

There were just three out of 19. One of them is David Ryan Vander Meer, who was homeschooled and therefore couldn’t include playing for a high school team on his resume to impress Walton.

The junior libero, who prefers being called Doc, found other methods.

“Doc started coming out to camps when he was pretty young, so we gained familiarity with him pretty quickly,” Walton said. “He was always really physical, just never that tall.”

Vander Meer began attending Walton’s winter volleyball camps when he was 13. He went on to attend the same camp for several years, gaining continuity with Walton and the coaches there.

Even with their young age, Walton was watching and waiting to see which players stood out and could be recruited in the future.

In order to get more exposure, Vander Meer played volleyball for Carpe Diem Volleyball Club, his father’s club team and coached by his mother. It was necessary for him to improve his ability and showcase his talent.

He said he didn’t market himself much to other coaches, preferring to listen to Walton’s pitches for Ball State as the recruiting process began.

With scouts in the stands watching, he was never nervous about having coaches critique his performance.

“I love volleyball, and my goal is to go out there and play my heart out and have fun,” Vander Meer said.

Vander Meer’s physicality and willingness to throw his body anywhere on the court impressed Walton. He also liked that Vander Meer was willing to contribute wherever it was necessary, whether it be playing middle attacker, outside attacker or libero.

At a volleyball camp, lines formed for players who wanted to play outside attacker, right side attacker and middle attacker.

The line for middle attacker was the shortest.

“I thought to myself, ‘Hey, the middle line is the shortest and I really want to play. I guess I’ll just jump in there,’” Vander Meer said.

But how could a player who, when fully grown is 5-foot-9, play middle attacker?

“I have a 39-inch vertical,” Vander Meer said, as a grin crept onto his face. “I think that says enough.”

As Walton watched the young player, he saw a talent he liked and began recruiting.

“The whole process is kind of like a guy and a girl asking each other out,” he said. “We say, ‘I really like you, do you like us?’ And it keeps going until we ask them to join our team.”

Then comes the emails, written letters and phone calls.

Walton told Vander Meer that although he wasn’t sure if he’d be an outside attacker or libero, he saw a lot of skill and wanted him at Ball State.

There are recruiting regulations Walton had to abide by, set up by the NCAA to create a fair advantage among colleges and protect prospective student-athletes.

Walton was not allowed to call Vander Meer more than once a week, while Vander Meer could call Walton as many times as he wanted.

They’d talk about his potential major, the program and where Vander Meer fit in. Sometimes, the topic would become less professional and more conversational, catching up on what’s new with each other and how the other person has been.

“I was just really comfortable with the coaching staff and coach Walton,” Vander Meer said. “I knew this was where I wanted to go.”

The volleyball program offered him some financial assistance on top of the academic scholarship he received, helping to seal the deal.

Despite knowing he wanted to go to Ball State for a long time, he didn’t sign his national letter of intent until the last second.

“Signing it was a big decision to say the least,” Vander Meer said. “I just really wanted to make sure this was what was right for me.”

Three years into college, he said he wouldn’t change that decision.

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